5 QSR Food and Brand Innovations Happening Right Now

by | Jun 28, 2022 | Restaurant Trends

Woman using a mobile phone to pay for a meal that demonstrates the latest QSR food innovations

Now more than a century after the first White Castle opened in the United States, QSR food innovations can help future-proof your business. According to research from NSF (formerly the National Sanitation Foundation), QSR operators should focus on food safety, staff training, supply chain, recruitment, and customer retention. Succeeding in these areas can improve everything from brand reputation to growth and profitability. Consumers are flocking to their favorite fast-food chains that champion convenience and customer satisfaction above all else. 

The QSR industry continues to benefit from steady growth around the world although consumer tastes are changing. Healthier options for diet-conscious consumers remain one of the best strategies to increase sales and attract new customers. Brands are rethinking how to market their foods to consumers that want higher protein intake or diet-friendly options on the menu as these currently resonate with every generation. We’ve collected some of the best examples below to help you keep up with the latest QSR food and brand innovations that are driving growth across the industry today.  

Key Takeaways:

  • The QSR industry is now more conscious of health, sustainability, and the value of analytics in their operations
  • With consumers now demanding convenience, QSR food innovations in 2022 focus on improved experiences, safety, and operational efficiency
  • Smart appliances, automated delivery, personalization, and alternative meal options dominate the changes currently underway in the industry

Top Examples of QSR Food Innovation for 2022

While innovation in the food industry is always a priority, the changing needs of consumers have driven most of the developments happening now. The pandemic overturned many traditional business models that were in place for decades. In the QSR sector specifically, the concept of food safety took on a completely new meaning. Sanitation of everything and everyone became paramount and digital technologies that seemed years away are now featured in almost every QSR operation. Let’s look at the five major QSR innovations driving growth and profitability across the industry. 

1. Fully Automated Food Delivery Services

Drone technology continues to improve, and startups like Drone Express envision a future where completely touchless, fully automated food delivery is standard practice across the industry. Founded in 2019, the company is now part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s BEYOND program. What sets Drone Express apart is its partnership with Kroger to deliver groceries to customers without ever interacting with a person.

The company is working on drone technology that will:

  • Reduce costs with a fully automated drone delivery system
  • Land on perches and charge stations to remain operational in any environment
  • Communicate with smart cars to deliver packages directly into trunks
  • Hand-off deliveries to robots on the ground when the drones can’t fly into a building

2. Smarter and More Efficient Appliances

Smart appliances are becoming common in QSR operations to keep operating costs down and improve the efficiency in kitchens. Using Wi-Fi to communicate vital information about food preparation processes and stock levels allows you to automate many of the backroom tasks that traditionally require human resources. Smart appliances use less energy and cook food faster, which translates directly to higher profitability in QSR settings.

QSR smart appliances can:

  • Improve food safety by automating regulatory compliance tasks
  • Decrease product liability by generating the required analytics and reports
  • Protect your brand reputation with a complete audit trail of food safety processes
  • Remotely activate appliances such as ovens for greater efficiency in the kitchen

Woman operating a smart oven from a tablet

Image Courtesy of TouchBistro

3. Healthier and Sustainable Alternatives on the Menu

Menu options continue to expand with alternative proteins already available from major brands like McDonald’s and Burger King. With younger generations being more health conscious, many brands are taking environmental sustainability and healthy diets much more seriously than just a few years ago. Additional alternatives include healthier sweeteners and new kinds of butter used in food preparation. These options make it possible to limit your environmental footprint without sacrificing taste, demonstrate your commitment to sustainability, and provide healthier meals to your customers. 

Some of the major alternative products in QSR are:

  • Dairy products that include soy or almond milk, nutritional yeast, and chickpea butter
  • Plant-based meats used in burgers, nuggets, steaks, and chicken dishes
  • Flours and sweeteners made from fruit and vegetables such as coconuts, almonds, and sweet potatoes

4. Personalized Menus and Ordering Experiences

More consumers want personalized ordering experiences, and the technologies that enable them are becoming common in the QSR industry. From ordering apps with machine learning capabilities to dynamic displays in drive-thru lanes, QSR operators can now use data to drive decisions and provide better experiences to customers. The use cases for these technologies continue to expand with contextual information and analytics, finding innovative applications throughout QSR operations. 

Some of the common use cases include:

  • Providing dynamic menus based on time of day, historical purchase data, weather, and nearby events
  • Offering personalized discounts and offers directly to consumers who are loyal or purchase frequently
  • Promote certain meal combos based on celebrity endorsements or customer profiles derived from omnichannel touchpoints

Different levels of personalization used in QSR food innovation today

Image Courtesy of Bottle Rocket Studios

5. Data-Driven Decision-Making with Analytics

QSR operators now have access to more data about their customers than ever before. Information about consumer preferences, meal performance, and operational excellence all provide better decision-making capabilities that can drive growth and profits. Customer operations analytics systems such as Eyecue use built-in artificial intelligence (AI) to understand trends, collect and collate datasets, and recommend changes to QSR businesses. With digital transformation now firmly part of QSR operations, data-driven decision-making about marketing, fulfillment, and payment solutions is helping brands to recognize trends early and be proactive about the changes they make. 

See the Latest QSR Food Innovations in Action at SIAL America

The QSR industry is undergoing major changes that are good for business, convenient for consumers, and better for the environment. Emerging technologies enable streamlined operations and healthier menu options that translate to more satisfied customers and an improved bottom line. At SIAL America, you can see all these innovations in action and engage with industry leaders across the QSR supply chain. 

If you want to experience the latest QSR food innovations and discover the brands leading the way, register for your attendance at SIAL America here